Opponents of Male Circumcision Urge International Organizations Not To Back Procedure as HIV Prevention Strategy
Opponents of male circumcision, who on Thursday will begin a three-day conference in Seattle at the University of Washington, have drafted a petition to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other international organizations that focus on public health urging them not to support male circumcision as a means of preventing HIV transmission in developing countries, the Seattle Times reports (Ostrom, Seattle Times, 8/23). According to a study conducted in South Africa and published in the November 2005 issue of PLoS Medicine, male circumcision might reduce the risk of men contracting HIV through sexual intercourse with women by about 60%. Two similar studies examining the effect of male circumcision on HIV transmission currently are underway in Kenya and Uganda (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/12). Some male circumcision opponents expressed disappointment that the procedure was embraced at the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto and fear that influential organizations might promote the practice, according to the Times. Bill Gates, who co-founded the Gates Foundation, and former President Clinton spoke favorably about the procedure at the conference, but they also highlighted its challenges. Gates said that male circumcision as an HIV prevention strategy "depends on a man," adding, "We need to put the power to prevent HIV in the hands of women." Opponents of male circumcision in their petition said promoting the practice as an "HIV/AIDS panacea" in developing countries is "deeply flawed" and "even cruel" and would violate human rights. John Geisheker, an attorney and executive director of Doctors Opposing Circumcision, said routine male circumcision in Africa would mean "[v]illage or bush surgery in septic conditions on millions of Africans against their will or with coerced or bogus consent ... with the payoff 18 years from now." Opponents have begun circulating a study questioning the results of the South Africa research. About 150 opponents of male circumcision from more than 20 countries are expected to attend the Ninth International Symposium on Circumcision, Genital Integrity and Human Rights, according to the Times (Seattle Times, 8/23).
Kaisernetwork.org served as the official webcaster of the conference. View the guide to coverage and all webcasts, interviews and a daily video round up of conference highlights at http://www.kaisernetwork.org/aids2006.